By Julia St. Clair
When one thinks of Laudato Sì, it is nearly impossible to not think of an office at the heart of our province—Salesian Missions. A private, nonprofit organization that operates as a non-governmental organization (NGO), it is dedicated to raising money for and helping projects to advance the third world.
“In 2020, we helped 67 provinces, who received $8.5 million for over 100 projects,” Fr. Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, explained. “We have been doing this for 75 years, during which we’ve raised over $637 million.”
Salesian Missions provides aid through education, health, humanitarian assistance, church building, and the Salesian Lay Missioners (SLM) program. A recent example of how Salesian Missions helped moral and spiritual development through education is how they raised 1,000 bibles through the Koch Foundation. Additionally, their chapel projects under church building saw 35 chapels assigned during 2020 and raised a total of $607,475 to support the cause.
Moreover, one way that Salesian Missions has participated in the fifth anniversary of Laudato Sì is how they introduced a renewable energy training program in Tanzania that serves over 480 students per year. With funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Don Bosco Vocational Training Centers created training laboratories and enhanced their solar and electronic classes and workshops. Students can now study solar energy installation, operation, and equipment maintenance. The project increases access to quality technical training on renewable energy, a fast-growing industry in Tanzania.
“They cannot find fossil energy in Africa, so solar energy is the way of the future. And it’s better for the environment,” Fr. Gus began. “We’re training young men and women to use solar funds and basic equipment, as well as to install solar panels. After graduation, 100 percent of kids get jobs. This is great since we need well-trained people in this area.”
Salesian Missions has also funded many clean water initiatives around the world. In Burkina Faso, where the Don Bosco Center is no stranger to solar energy, Salesian Missions recently helped to install a solar-powered water pump. There, they use 30 solar energy lamps to light up the center. When they requested a solar-powered borehole, Salesian Missions was happy to help. They provided the missing solar pump needed to complete the borehole and water tower that now provides clean water for the center and surrounding community.
“I saw only two countries before the pandemic—Tanzania and Kenya. In both places, children must travel long distances with no shoes to get water,” Fr. Gus exclaimed. “Salesian parishes help them, and we include their stories as examples when we do our weekly outreach. The clean water projects receive very strong and positive responses.”
To learn more about ongoing projects at Salesian Missions, please visit https://salesianmissions.org/.
This article marks the end of the fifth anniversary year of Laudato Sì. We encourage everyone who will celebrate or has already celebrated the Feast of Mary Help of Christians to send their short articles and photos to Salesian News at [email protected] by no later than 9:00 AM ET on Monday, May 24 (the Feast of Mary Help of Christians!).